Navy’s highest ranked lawyer — a Baylor Law grad — celebrates long, successful career
For more than three decades, Vice Admiral John G. Hannink (JD ’94) has faithfully served our country in the U.S. Navy. From his early days as the public affairs officer aboard the USS Nimitz to his current post as the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy, it’s safe to say Hannink has had a pretty incredible career — and Baylor played a big part in his trajectory.
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985 and spending some time on the seas, he was selected to become part of the Navy’s Law Education Program (LEP). In 1991, Hannink arrived at Baylor Law School, where he grew both professionally and personally.
“I appreciated the environment offered by the law school, the university, and the community of Waco,” he recalls. “I met people from many backgrounds, and all of them helped make my experience at Baylor Law extremely rewarding.”
Hannink remembers that the professors were excellent role models and mentors. “They emphasized the important roles that lawyers play in society, and prepared students to understand, explain and perform those roles,” he says. “Baylor’s focus on graduating practice-ready lawyers helped me. Professors stressed the importance of meeting the client’s legal needs, and — in accomplishing that end — the fundamental importance of diligent research and preparation.”
The years after law school were packed with accomplishments. Hannink completed several assignments within Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC) as personal representation attorney and prosecutor at the Naval Station San Diego, and commanding officer of Region Legal Service Office Southeast. Later, he was posted at the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG), where he was a general litigation attorney and executive assistant to the deputy judge advocate general and the judge advocate general. He also served as assistant judge advocate general (operations and management) and chief of staff, Region Legal Service Offices.
In 2018, Hannink was named the 44th Judge Advocate General of the Navy, where he is the principal military legal counsel to the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations and leads some 2,300 attorneys, enlisted legalmen and civilian employees of the worldwide Navy JAG Corps community.
When reflecting on his years in service, Hannink says he has enjoyed working with people from all over America on missions important to the nation. Throughout his career, he witnessed the sacrifices made by those in uniform, and their willingness to pull together to accomplish difficult assignments.
“Understanding their work helped me to cherish mine,” Hannink reflects. “I valued serving those who serve. Sometimes this meant advising Navy commanders and senior officers on the legal framework related to an operation or decision. Other times it meant advising or representing a sailor facing a potential adverse outcome, or helping a family member of a deployed sailor work though a personal legal matter.”
Earlier this month, Hannink stepped down from his post as JAG after 36 years in the Navy, having earned awards ranking from the Defense Superior Service Medal to the Legion of Merit to the Meritorious Service Medal. “I am grateful to have been a part of many different teams that came together on whatever mission was assigned,” he says. “It has been a privilege to serve.”
Sic ’em, Vice Admiral Hannink!